Fifteen years is a long time to wait for a new entry in a video game franchise, and because of that, Age of Empires 4 had to update some of the series' core design. While Age of Empires has always focused on different civilizations, this time around each one feels more distinct than ever before, but that's not unprecedented. Back in the day, Age of Mythology felt like a much more asymmetric version of Age of Empires, and now Age of Empires 4 could pave the way for an ambitious new mythology game.
In past Age of Empire games, there was decent variation between the civs in terms of technology, units, and some gameplay mechanics. Age of Mythology only had three civilizations, but each one was entirely different. They gathered resources differently, had different units, different strengths, and so on. Similarly, Age of Empires 4 introduces civilizations that are functionally different, which can completely change how you play the game.
For example, the Mongols have the unique ability to pick and move their entire civilization, while also having a dedicated building that automatically gathers stone. Meanwhile, the Holy Roman Empire has Prelates that can increase the gathering speed of villagers, while also serving as healers. Each civilization has a special something that makes it entirely unique, but the game is balanced enough that it doesn't necessarily give one player an advantage over another. Sure, civilizations like the English and French are easier to use, but a skilled player can put the quirks of any to proper use.
That core asymmetrical design falls right in line with the philosophy of Age of Mythology, and Relic Entertainment would be the perfect studio to tackle a new entry. The original game is still a fan-favorite of the RTS genre, but imagine what Relic could do with new technology and the advancements made with Age of Empires 4. Building off the original design, the Egyptians could have a complex monument system like Abbasid Dynasty, and the Norse could feature some kind of combat or bounty system like with the Rus. There's also the option of adding in brand new mythological civilizations that center around Asia, Central America, or Africa.
It's clear that diversity in gameplay was a major focus for Age of Empires 4, even in its campaign missions, which is yet another aspect shared with Age of Mythology. The campaigns in both games take liberal steps to make each mission feel unique, oftentimes adding in completely new mechanics and ideas not featured in multiplayer. While Age of Empires 4 takes a more sterile historical approach, it'd be fascinating to see what Relic could do with a full-blown character-driven RTS story.
For all the love the Age of Empires series has been shown, it's perhaps most surprising that Age of Mythology has never received the same treatment. While there is an upscaled version on Steam, it absolutely pales in comparison to the wonderful Definitive Editions of all the Age of Empires games. It's baffling that Microsoft hasn't given the series' mythological counterpart the same treatment, and Relic has even expressed interest in returning to Age of Mythology.
In a roundtable interview before the Age of Empires fan event, earlier in 2021, Creative Director Adam Isgreen broached the subject. "I've said this before, and I'll say it again: I have not forgotten about Age of Mythology. It comes up all the time," said Isgreen. He then continued, "Stay tuned. We have not forgotten about it. I love Age of Mythology. I love mythology in general. We love the franchise. We're not pretending it's not there or anything like that. We know."
With strong critical and commercial reception to Age of Empires 4, you have to imagine Microsoft is thinking about what's next for the franchise. There'll undoubtedly be a wave of post-launch updates for Age of Empires 4, but Relic could really flex its creative muscles with an ambitious new take on Age of Mythology.